It’s the final act for Mobay Uptown Restaurant and Barbecue Inc., the popular soul food and barbecue restaurant located at 17 W. 125th St. The eatery filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday and will shutter by October.
“A captain has to know when to jump ship,” said Sheron Chin Barnes, the owner of 13-employee Mobay. A pioneer, she first opened the eatery in Harlem a decade ago, but said the rent on her 1,000-square-foot space has gone up by 35%, thanks to the neighborhood’s gentrification. She also pays $30,000 in annual real estate taxes, she noted. “There are so many changes that are occurring in Harlem,” she said.
The filing listed debts exceeding $184,000. Mobay, between Fifth and Lenox avenues, owes $80,000 to its landlord, West 125th Street Realty, along with department fines of $8,000 to the New York City Department of Health. Assets and liabilities were unavailable.
Four years ago, Mobay filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which indicated an intent to reorganize. It was never able to fully recover financially, according to Adam David Senior, the attorney representing the eatery. The latest Chapter 7 filing means liquidation is in order.
With the influx of national chains, including Red Lobster and Applebees, into the neighborhood, retail rents in Harlem have soared to near $100 a square foot. DSW and Blink Fitness have recently signed on for space in the neighborhood. Many small businesses, including Harlem Lanes and Outside Executive Fashions, are getting pushed out.
Yet, there may be an encore for Ms. Barnes. She noted that while Mobay is liquidating, she is hoping to reinvent her business sometime next year by opening a different restaurant in Harlem. In the meantime, she will continue a catering company.
“Everybody loves the food,” she said. “We’ll come back next year and kick some butt.”
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